This weekend at Active Sanctuary we have been experimenting with the practice of Mauna Brata – noble silence. Partly because I tragically lost my voice to a bad cold and I wasn’t much of use for detailed guidance anyway. But also because losing my voice for a week reminded me of the benefits of silence in our practice, and in this way it came to me like a little blessing.
Mauna Brata is a traditional variation of the yoga practice, where we follow a sequence of postures in complete silence. The student honours the practice and his fellow practitioners by restraining from speech and committing to noble silence.
At the studio where I first embarked on my yoga journey, ten years ago, we seldom experimented with this style of practice. It was only offered at the advanced level classes or during teacher training sessions. The reason for this I believe is that silence is a very confronting practice. When I teach yoga in silence I usually provide my students with a written sequence (ideally including images) and make sure they are familiar with the poses mentioned before we turn on the ‘mute’. Even though the simple sequence is right there in front of the students and I myself practice it with them on my mat, the session always turns out to be unique and challenging.
So what are the benefits of Mauna Brata?
- Less distractions – your teacher’s voice, the questions of your fellow students and even background music are essentially external sounds distracting you to an extent from tuning inwards and just enjoying the practice the way it is. Silence allows you more space to listen to your body.
- A practice for the senses – silence encourages your senses to sharpen and become more sensitive. You can hear yourself breathing, experience the tactile sensation of your clothing on your skin or your mat beneath you. You might feel much more aware of the students around you, it almost feels a bit awkward at first, but at the same time it is also an invitation to challenge yourself and connect to your practice and its many deeper layers.
- Commitment – your teacher doesn’t shout alignment cues at you and no one insists you stay in that tough pose for just a little bit longer. This is your chance to test your own discipline and ability to commit to the practice.
- Sacred privacy – no one disturbs or alters your practice, we all rather flow as a collective, each in their own private world. You are just holding space for all other practitioners in the room and they are holding space for you. It is a very humble experience where all involved are safe and are showing respect to one another.
- Freedom – there is no guidance or corrections. You are invited to fully let go, surrender and allow your body to flow through the practice the way it chooses. Your postures might look completely different to your peers’. You won’t get told off for adding a sneaky extra challenge into the sequence or missing a pose you don’t really feel like doing. (Not that we yogis ever do this whole judgement and comparison thing anyway 😉 )
To progress on the yoga path we can’t always practice in silence of course: we need our teacher as a guide and I am the first advocate for a friendly practice where students are encouraged to talk to each other. Also it is important to mention that like any other aspect of the practice, Mauna Brata is not for everybody – silence is indeed very confronting and could be triggering for some. There is no harm in trying it out and making a choice for yourself! If it works for you, experimenting with silence could be a safe space you can always come back to, every once and a while, to tune in and hear your soul’s finest whispers.
I am filled with gratitude for this recent unique experience of losing my voice that has reminded me of the magic of Mauna Brata.
Now that I’ve recovered, I am waiting to see you all on the mat when you are ready!
Book in for a class with me HERE
Your teacher, Anna Bukchin